NEW DELHI: Tens of millions of people in India were suffering on Friday under a severe heatwave that has pushed the temperature to a nine-year high in New Delhi as monsoon rains run behind schedule.
Heatwaves have killed over 6,500 people in India since 2010, and scientists say climate change is making them harsher and more frequent.
Daytime temperatures were above 40 degrees Celsius for the fourth consecutive day on Friday across the states of Rajasthan, Haryana and New Delhi.
Large parts of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh were also wilting.
New Delhi saw 43.1 degrees Celsius on Thursday, the hottest July day in the city since 2012 when the capital sweltered under 43.5 degrees Celsius.
On Friday, the temperature again shot up to 41 degree Celsius in the city of 20 million.
Temperatures have remained more than seven degrees Celsius above normal for this time of the year, prompting India’s weather office to classify it as “severe extreme heat”.
The meteorological department said the mercury would stay above 40 degrees for the coming week because of the late arrival of monsoon and a hot wind, known as the Loo, blowing in from Rajasthan and Pakistan.
The weather department has issued an alert for the region, with forecasters also saying some isolated places would witness thunderstorms.
The intense heat has driven up power consumption as more and more people turned to airconditioners and air coolers.
Delhi’s power consumption peaked to nearly 7,000 megawatts this week, 10 to 15 percent higher than the average demand at this time of the year.
In East Punjab, authorities announced a two-day weekly closure of industrial units and reduced office hours for its employees after electricity demand topped 15,000 megawatts.
Forecasters predict that the annual rains will not hit New Delhi before July 7, making it the most delayed monsoon in the capital since 2006.
The deadliest year for India was 2015 when over 2,000 were killed by intense heat.
Currently just five percent of Indian households have air conditioning compared to 90 percent in the United States and 60 percent in China.
But the market is forecast to boom in the coming years, driving up energy consumption in what is already the world’s third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide.
The refrigerants inside AC units also exacerbate global warming, while the heat that the machines generate make cities even hotter.
India also suffers from severe water shortages, with tens of millions lacking running water.